Beta-Glucans

Scientific Name(s): beta-1,3-glucan, beta-1,6-glucan

Common Name(s): Beta-glucans

Uses

Reviews providing an overview of the beta-glucans are available, focusing largely on preventive roles in cancer and diseases related to the cardiovascular and immune systems. For more detailed information, see the individual monographs for the different beta-glucan sources (brewer's yeast, lentinan [shiitake], maitake [grifola], seaweed, oats, and barley).

Dosing

See individual monographs for specific dosing recommendations.

Contraindications

See individual monographs for specific information.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. See individual monographs for specific information.

Interactions

See individual monographs for specific interactions.

Adverse Reactions

See individual monographs for specific adverse events.

Toxicology

See individual monographs for specific toxicology information.

Natural sources of beta-glucans include fungal cell walls, seaweed, oats, and barley. Although collectively termed beta-glucans, variations in composition exist as a consequence of being derived from different natural sources, as well as batch variations due to differing growth conditions. Synthetic substances are being developed to overcome such variations, but until these become widely available, information for beta-glucan depends on the source; see individual monographs for brewer's yeast, lentinan (shiitake), maitake (grifola), seaweed, oats, and barley. 1 , 2 , 3

History

Beta-glucans have been used in traditional medicine, especially in Japan, and have been extensively studied for many years, particularly for their potential as immunomodulators. Traditional Chinese and Asian medicines extensively utilize medicinal mushrooms as a source of beta-glucan, while in the United States, early research focused on the immunomodulatory effects of zymosan derived from the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae . 1

Chemistry

Beta-glucans are carbohydrates; specifically, they are polymers of glucose units, either linear (with beta-1,3-glycosidic linkages) or branched with side-chains (with beta-1,6-glycosidic linkages). The composition of cereal beta-glucan includes beta-1,4-glycosidic linkages. 1 , 4

Uses and Pharmacology

Reviews providing an overview of the beta-glucans are available, 1 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 7 , 8 as well as meta-analyses of studies using cereal beta-glucan in the modification of lipids and for lentinan in gastric cancer. 9 , 10 , 11

However, the number of quality clinical trials using beta-glucan is limited in comparison with the plethora of available information, and largely focus on its role in cancer and diseases of the cardiovascular and immune systems. For more detailed information, see the individual monographs for the different beta-glucan sources (brewer's yeast , lentinan [shiitake], maitake [grifola], seaweed , oats , and barley ).

Dosage

See individual monographs for specific dosing recommendations.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. See individual monographs for more detail.

Interactions

See individual monographs for specific interactions.

Adverse Reactions

See individual monographs for specific adverse events.

Toxicology

See individual monographs for specific toxicology information.

Bibliography

1. Novak M, Vetvicka V. Glucans as biological response modifiers. Endocr Metab Immune Disord Drug Targets . 2009;9(1):67-75.
2. Kim SY, Song HJ, Lee YY, Cho KH, Roh YK. Biomedical issues of dietary fiber beta-glucan. J Korean Med Sci . 2006;21(5):781-789.
3. Laroche C, Michaud P. New developments and prospective applications for beta (1,3) glucans. Recent Pat Biotechnol . 2007;1(1):59-73.
4. Volman JJ, Ramakers JD, Plat J. Dietary modulation of immune function by beta-glucans. Physiol Behav . 2008;94(2):276-284.
5. Novak M, Vetvicka V. Beta-glucans, history, and the present: immunomodulatory aspects and mechanisms of action. J Immunotoxicol . 2008;5(1):47-57.
6. Chen J, Seviour R. Medicinal importance of fungal beta-(1—>3),(1—>6 )-glucans. Mycol Res . 2007;111(pt 6):635-652.
7. Mantovani MS, Bellini MF, Angeli JP, Oliveira RJ, Silva AF, Ribeiro LR. beta-Glucans in promoting health: prevention against mutation and cancer. Mutat Res . 2008;658(3):154-161.
8. Chen J, Raymond K. Beta-glucans in the treatment of diabetes and associated cardiovascular risks. Vasc Health Risk Manag . 2008;4(6):1265-1272.
9. Oba K, Kobayashi M, Matsui T, Kodera Y, Sakamoto J. Individual patient based meta-analysis of lentinan for unresectable/recurrent gastric cancer. Anticancer Res . 2009;29(7):2739-2745.
10. Kelly SA, Summerbell CD, Brynes A, Whittaker V, Frost G. Wholegrain cereals for coronary heart disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev . 2007;(2):CD005051.
11. Talati R, Baker WL, Pabilonia MS, White CM, Coleman CI. The effects of barley-derived soluble fiber on serum lipids. Ann Fam Med . 2009;7(2):157-163.

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